Real forgiveness must be sincere

Published 8:21 am Friday, November 15, 2019

Old Joe was dying.

For years, he had been at odds with Bill, formerly one of his best friends. Wanting to straighten things out, he sent word for Bill to come and see him.

When Bill arrived, Joe told him that he was afraid to go into eternity with such bad feelings between them.

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Then, very reluctantly and with great effort, Joe apologized for things he had said and done. He also reassured Bill that he forgave him for his offenses. Everything seemed fine, until Bill turned to leave. As he walked out of the room, Joe called out after him, “But, remember, if I get better, this doesn’t count!”

Joe started with the right attitude… but it didn’t take long for his real intentions to surface. Forgiveness isn’t a feeling — it’s a choice we make. Many people don’t feel forgiven because they haven’t learned to forgive others.

Evangelist Billy Graham once said, “75 percent of patients in hospitals could be made whole if they would learn to forgive.”

But choosing to forgive someone who has abused or hurt you isn’t always easy to do.

In his book, “You Can Win,” Roger Campbell tells of a woman who had been treated wrongly by her church and came to him for help.

He was sympathetic to her plight, but he also realized she would not be delivered from her hurt feelings until she got a glimpse of the suffering Christ.

“Has anyone spat on you yet?” Campbell asked.

“No,” she replied, shocked by his question.

“They did on Jesus,” he told her.

Campbell went on to say, “Suddenly she saw my point. While she had certainly been mistreated by people who should have known better, she had not endured the pain and shame experienced by Christ in His suffering and death for her sins. My simple question changed her attitude about her persecutors and she was able to forgive those who had snubbed and avoided her.”

The simple fact is: there are no perfect churches, perfect pastors, or perfect people. Sooner or later someone is going to say or do something to hurt you and when that time comes you will be faced with a choice — do you forgive them or hold a grudge?

In Matthew, Chapter 6, we find the Lord’s Prayer.  Jesus wanted to teach His disciples the correct way to pray for their needs and for each other. Halfway through the prayer

He adds this line: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Then He explains it in verses 14-15: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

The lesson Jesus was trying to teach His disciples was this, either learn to forgive or stop asking God to give you something you’re not willing to give to others!         

Every relationship we have thrives on forgiveness.

Husbands and wives must learn to forgive… parents and children must learn to forgive… even Christians must learn to forgive.

If someone has hurt you, look to the One who knows how you feel.

Jesus understands what pain and loneliness feel like. He will help you to forgive them and begin the healing process. He will also forgive you as you learn to forgive others… because no one is worth messing up how your life ends!

Rev. Doug Johnson is the senior pastor at Raven Assembly of God in Raven, Virginia